Carlos Henderson Checks All The Boxes For Tampa Bay

Dec 23, 2016; Fort Worth, TX, USA; Louisiana Tech Bulldogs wide receiver Carlos Henderson (1) runs after catching a pass against Navy Midshipmen cornerback Tyris Wooten (17) at Amon G. Carter Stadium. Louisiana Tech won 48-45. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 23, 2016; Fort Worth, TX, USA; Louisiana Tech Bulldogs wide receiver Carlos Henderson (1) runs after catching a pass against Navy Midshipmen cornerback Tyris Wooten (17) at Amon G. Carter Stadium. Louisiana Tech won 48-45. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports /

The Buccaneers are in need of receiver help in this years’ draft, but barring a surprise slide from one of the top guys it seems unlikely they’ll use a first round pick on one. Could a second round prospect like Carlos Henderson be the answer?

It sure does feel like we’re living in the golden age of wide receivers. The rules are such that they have a significant advantage over defenders, and it seems that every year we have several new receivers burst on to the scene. The 2017 draft class is the latest to be stacked with talent of various shapes and sizes; guys that win with size, guys that win with speed, and guys that do a little bit of everything. We can see that reflected in the consensus top three guys, Williams, Ross and Davis.

For a team lacking receivers like the Buccaneers all three of those players are enticing, but it seems less and less likely that any of them will be wearing pewter and red next season. Williams and Davis seem to be locks to go inside the top fifteen picks, while Ross’s extreme injury history might be too risky for the 19th pick. Instead, the Bucs could look for this year’s version of Michael Thomas – a gifted, refined player that slips into the second round only because of the depth of talent in front of him.

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Louisiana Tech’s Carlos Henderson is that guy. Henderson, standing at five foot ten inches, is a true “do it all” receiver, who can win at all levels of the field. Henderson only has two games available to watch on ““, but in them he shows that he can be the complete package as a route runner. Nine-routes, screens, slants, digs, crossers and posts are all in Henderson’s repertoire. However, it’s what he does with the ball after the catch that makes him so special – and one of two qualities of his game that will get the Bucs’ attention.

Henderson is truly a boss with the ball in his hands, and a yards-after-catch monster. He’s shifty, elusive, and able to stop and start extremely well. Buccaneers receivers were dead last in YAC last season, so this quality of Henderson’s game will immediately jump off the screen to Jason Licht and company. For a taste, watch the video below.

That play was just one of many short passes that Henderson took to the house in his three year career at LA Tech. My personal favorite evaluator of receivers is Matt Harmon with, and his “Reception Perception” metric, which takes into account every aspect of the receiver position, loves Henderson, particularly his ability to create plays after the catch. According to Reception Perception, Henderson broke two or more tackles on 39.3% of his open field runs, the highest number in the last two draft classes, according to Harmon. Did the Buccaneers have a receiver break more than two tackles during the entire 2016 season?

Wide receiver isn’t the only position that Henderson can help the Buccaneers with. As a kick returner Henderson scored three touchdowns over his three year college career, and averaged 33.4 yards per return last season, good for second most in all of college football. The Buccaneers conversely averaged a pathetic 14.6 yards per return last season, good for dead last in the NFL, and haven’t scored a return touchdown since man discovered fire. For a team that values special teams like the Bucs do, one has to imagine that Henderson has a lot of appeal.

There are of course some concerns with Carlos. Though he put up astronomical numbers last season (82 catches, 1535 yards, 19 touchdowns), his freshman and sophomore seasons were pedestrian, leaving open the possibility that he’s a one-hit wonder. Henderson’s modest height (5’11) and overall size along with his small conference (USA) are all factors that teams will need to weigh as well, but according to NFL draft analyst/insider Tony Paline of the combine and words from rival coaches should alleviate many of these concerns:

"Last week I mentioned Carlos Henderson as one of two sleepers at the wide receiver spot few have mentioned.  Since then I continue to hear nothing but positive buzz on the Louisiana Tech junior, who some say will not get out of the second round.There have been questions about his size, specifically his height, but I am told Henderson will measure a shade over 5-feet/11-inches.  He is expected to run under 4.4s in the forty at the combine, with some believing he could drop into the 4.35s area.I’m told Henderson has received high praise from rival coaches in Conference USA.  When asked they’ve told league scouts Henderson was impossible to cover."

As I stated earlier, this draft is very deep with receivers. Beyond the top three there are lots of quality mid-round players like Zay Jones, Cooper Kupp, and JuJu Smith-Schuster. The Buccaneers have no shortage of options to look at, but I think that a prospect like Henderson, who clearly excels in two of the Bucs’ weakest areas, will be towards the top of Jason Licht’s list. Though the bar isn’t set particularly high, Carlos Henderson would instantly become the Bucs most versatile and athletic receiver, as well as a real weapon on kick returns.

Next: Buccaneers Draft Profile: D'Onta Foreman

What say you, Buccaneer fans? Is there a receiver you’d prefer in the second or third round as opposed to Carlos Henderson, or are you a fan of his game? Sound off in the comments, and be sure to stay tuned to the Pewter Plank as we continue to preview prospects leading up the draft.